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Centrepoint TalkSwitch Phone Systems


When most people consider replacing or installing a phone system, they tend to think of large, expensive equipment and hefty installation costs. Not anymore. Thanks to Centrepoint's TalkSwitch™ 24 and TalkSwitch 48-NLS, systems have gotten smaller, less expensive, and easier to use.

About half the size of an average laptop computer, TalkSwitch systems are equipped with intercom, call transfer, voice mail, auto-attendant, multiple extensions, and ring grouping, plus call bridging, customizable call cascading, and call parking. And because TalkSwitch connects to your computer, setup and operation are quite simple. The TalkSwitch system's best feature, though, is the price: a mere $699.99 for the 2-line, 4 fixed and 8 remote extension model , and $1,399.99 for the 4-line 8 fixed and 8 remote extension system.

A unique advantage
Since features are usually hidden within most systems, configuring a PBX generally requires a healthy sit-down with the operating instructions and at least 15 minutes of listening to and answering voice prompts. But not with TalkSwitch—and here's its distinct advantage over other PBXs. It connects to your PC via USB or serial port, so the TalkSwitch system can be customized through well-designed software menus. Most people will rarely even need to consult the manual during setup.

An abundance of features
Once you plug in the power cord and connect your 2 incoming phone lines to the TalkSwitch 24, you'll have access to 4 internal and 8 external extensions. The TalkSwitch 48-NLS accepts 4 incoming phone lines and gives you another 4 internal extensions for a total of 8 internal and 8 external. Plus, you can network up to four 48-NLS units together for one 16-line, 32-extension system. Either unit can accommodate a public address (PA) system, music-on-hold devices, modems, and fax machines. Some of the other features found on both systems are covered below.

External extensions
Employees who work at a location other than the main office can set up external extensions. When a caller requests such an extension, the call will be transferred to the designated offsite telephone number. External extensions have their own voice mail and provide remote workers with full access to other TalkSwitch features as well. Employees who occasionally work from home can also set their regular extensions to forward calls to their homes. In fact, any company or individual, particularly in the medical field, might find this application especially useful when constant contact needs to be maintained.

Call cascade
Once all of your extensions are in place, you can determine how calls are handled with the call cascade feature. Set the auto-attendant to greet callers, then ring one or all extensions. Have a single extension receive incoming calls and let the call roll over to other extensions when unanswered. Forward calls to employees' cell phones during business trips. All of these options are possible and easy to set up from your computer.

Call bridge/call-back
Companies often lose a lot of money because their remote and traveling workers are unable to take advantage of their corporate long-distance plan. These companies also have to deal with administration costs associated with reimbursements. But using a TalkSwitch system, employees can call in to the office, and use company phone lines to make long-distance calls. And if they don't want to pay the initial 1-minute charges, employees can call in, wait for 2 rings, then hang up. Shortly thereafter, TalkSwitch will return the calls and employees will have full access to the system again—as if they were in the office.

Voice mail
Unfortunately, only 25 minutes of total recording time are available for all of the extensions. This is the only shortcoming of the system, in my mind. When you consider how much space is used for outgoing greetings and auto-attendant messages, 25 minutes isn't enough for companies using all of their extensions. You can purchase memory upgrades for the TalkSwitch 48-NLS system, however. Each one of these memory cards provides an additional 60 minutes or 120 minutes of recording space.

Other features
In addition to the unique features listed above, TalkSwitch systems have many other capabilities:

  • Call queue - TalkSwitch extensions can handle multiple calls simultaneously. Each call is kept in order (on hold) so an employee can rotate through them when the current call is finished. Meanwhile, an on-hold caller is given the option to wait or to leave a message in the employee's mailbox.
  • Auto-Attendant - 9 different auto-attendant messages can be recorded, whereas other systems allow only 1. Through TalkSwitch's "mode scheduling," different messages can be used for different times of the day.
  • Caller ID/distinctive rings - because TalkSwitch holds calls for 1 ring before passing them on to the initial extension, Caller ID information is immediately displayed when a call is received. To further identify callers, employees can designate certain Caller ID information to generate alternate rings.
  • Ring grouping - allows you to ring specific phones or a group of phones when a call is received or transferred.
  • Call park - if you need to check a file in another room while you are on a call, you can temporarily park the call and then retrieve it from another phone connected to the system.
  • Versatility - TalkSwitch systems work with analog phone lines and Centrex systems. They can also be set up behind PBX systems.

Final comments
Both TalkSwitch systems are easy to use and swift to set up. They're loaded with conveniences, and they're functionally diverse. Personally, it was the flexibility that won me over. My clients didn't have to first call my office number, then my home number, and then my mobile number, in order to find me. They called just 1 number, and TalkSwitch did all the legwork. Meanwhile, I didn't have to constantly check 3 different voice mailboxes to make sure I hadn't missed a call!


What I Liked Best   What I Didn't Like
  • Call bridging/call-back
  • Call cascade
  • Multiple internal and external extensions
  • Savings on long-distance calls for remote and traveling workers
  • Centralizes all your phones and voice mailboxes
  • Low cost
  • Low voice mail capacity

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